In the year 2000, I moved home after having spent eight months working in Banff. Newly returned with seemingly nothing better to do, one evening I found myself spending time with a group of hometown strangers. One pompous individual shared the following speech:
“You can’t spend your entire life just in Steinbach, you know. You need to get out and see the world, like me! I’ve seen SO MUCH. Sure, I haven’t asked any of you if you’ve ever left, but I’m confident you haven’t. And trust me, that’s the only way you’ll ever discover just how crappy this town truly is.”
I still encounter this attitude even now, well into adulthood — the assumption that if you actually like your hometown, you likely just never get out. Or you’re completely ignorant. Or both.
Well, I do get out. I’ve been to Paris. I’ve been to Tokyo. I’ve been to Buenos Aires and New York City. I’ve seen the world. And, yet, I still love Steinbach, maybe even more so because of my travels.
I don’t love Steinbach in a delusional way, however. Its flaws and frustrations are obvious. And, yes, Steinbachers love to complain endlessly about this place: according to some folks, we’ve seemingly cornered the market on motorist-idiocy, we get a special, harsh sort of winter for seven months every year, and then there’s…religion. Steinbach is lovingly satirized on the Daily Bonnet and, probably less lovingly, criticized by Winnipeggers.
Yes, Steinbach is a Mennonite town, with everything good and bad that goes with that, but I’m not going to get into that right now. (Sorry.)
Let’s not forget, though, that there’s also LOTS to love about Steinbach. For example, it’s quirky!
A few years ago, I found myself on a committee planning an event… and the first meeting I attended erupted in an argument about waffles. It was one of the most delightful moments of my Steinbachian citizenship.
Citizen 1: What about the waffles? We must have waffles.
Citizen 2: The ladies are elderly and tired. They refuse to make the waffles.
C1: Well then get them to teach some younger people to make the waffles.
C2: The ladies will not teach anyone their secret recipe for the waffles.
C1: We need those waffles! They are integral to the event!
C2: I don’t know what to tell you. Looks like we won’t have waffles.
C1: (with intensity) Oh, we’ll have waffles. Mark my words — there WILL be waffles.
I could feel my eyes welling with tears of repressed mirth, and found myself sharing an incredulous look with a girl I’d never met before, who was also stifling laughter over this waffle-related uproar. (We became friends, of course.)
Furthermore, as I walk down Main Street on my way to work, I have encountered:
- Tina from Tina’s Alterations, out in front sweeping the snow, calling out, “Good morning, Erin!” (Incidentally, she is the second Tina to own this particular business. For a while both Tina’s were there.)
- Wendy the florist, handing me a daisy.
- Our lending officer, emerging from the dry cleaners, upon seeing me, asking with great concern why on earth I’m walking — because we’d just gotten a car loan, so is there something wrong with our car? (There wasn’t — I just like to walk.)
- Norma the librarian arriving for work as I walk by, stopping to chat with me because I’d gone to high school with her daughter.
- Many lovely ladies who compliment my hats.
I have many more encounters than these too… but these are the ones that are on my mind right now. Altogether this casts my little town with a cozy glow in my mind.
Yes, I’ve seen grander cities, and I’m not unaware of our flaws… but I see so much good, too, and often that gets ignored by outsiders…and even us Steinbachers.
I love you, Steinbach. My home.